In a recent Food Safety Magazine article, Ignacio Garamendi, the Executive Director for International Life Sciences Institute (ILSI) Europe, asks “With allergies and their health impacts on the rise, what can we do to help improve food safety and health?” The short answer is: Better food labelling and risk assessment.
For the past 20 years, an ILSI Europe taskforce has been working to improve exactly these two things. In seeking to determine the relationship between the amounts of allergens that cause reactions and the proportion of individuals experiencing allergic reactions at those dose levels, research is helping to build evidence to support agreed, safe thresholds for the major food allergens.
Risk assessments can in turn be used to improve and standardise food labelling. Currently, allergen labelling can be confusing, particularly precautionary allergen labelling (PAL). Mr Garamendi explains that PAL was developed to help manage food allergen risks at a time when they were almost completely uncharacterised and the industry was dominated by a fear of extreme allergic reactions among consumers who accidentally consumed a food containing a major allergen. However, widespread and inconsistent use of PAL has brought unnecessary limitations to food choices for people living with multiple or severe allergies and coeliac disease.
In the UK, the Food Standards Agency’s Consultation on Precautionary Allergen Labelling found that the majority of consultation survey respondents (97 per cent) support the use of a standardised precautionary allergen label. So now it appears time for food and beverage producers to focus on making PAL more accurate, effective, and meaningful for consumers.
Identifying, prioritising, and standardising the list of major food allergens across global borders is another activity that will help protect people everywhere living with allergies.
Read the full article in Food Safety Magazine here.
See this related Allergen Bureau new items for the ILSI Taskforce tools for risk assessment.